Many people who have recently been charged with a crime are likely wondering if they have to show up to court or how the virus will affect their case. First off if you represent yourself and have a court date scheduled, I would suggest you attend the court date so that a warrant is not issued for your arrest. Simply put, never ignore a court date unless told to do so by your attorney or the Court.
In regard to how the virus will affect your case: Currently there is an Order in place that states there are to be no trials until, at the earliest, April 20, 2020. Additionally, most hearings and pretrial conferences are to be handled outside the courtroom until after said date. Further, the April 20, 2020 date is likely going to be pushed out into May 2020 but that is not yet confirmed. You may be thinking that the State is going to miss its deadlines for certain things to happen. For example, your right to a speedy trial might be violated. As you may now, every person has right to have a trial within 90 days after the Trial Information is filed in their case. Unfortunately for the defendants out there, our court took this into consideration when issuing its Order to delay trials until April 20, 2020. All timelines are tolled from the date of the court’s Order. Stated in another way, you are not going to win on legal technicality during this Covid-19 period regarding a missed deadline. Right now courts are encouraged to continue hearings to avoid in-person contact. So you ask how does this virus benefit me?
The virus is beneficial to you because attorneys (Both the defense attorney and State’s attorney) are encouraged to resolve cases without the courts intervention. In other words, the State’s attorney (prosecutor) is more likely to cut you a better deal during this time. There is even a better chance you can avoid jail should you be able to resolve your case during this time. This is because courts are swayed against sending someone to jail for a non-violent or a minor crime with the virus floating around. Unlike a few months ago where someone could easily be sentenced to jail or prison for a non-violent offense, it is not as likely during this time. The State’s attorney and courts are currently swayed toward keeping non-violent offenders out of jail because they don’t want the non-violent offender catching the virus while packed in a jail like a can of sardines.
You now may be thinking, “I went to court and the court scheduled my next court date to June 2020.” The virus will likely be over by then. Here is the deal: the court is functioning just as it always does but everything is getting handled via EDMS (the filing system with the court (almost all attorneys have EDMS)) and not in the courtroom, except for emergency matters. In my opinion courts probably want current defendants to resolve their cases now, if possible, so that it does not have a slammed docket come this summer. If you wait until summer, plan on waiting in the courtroom too.
So what should you do? Unless you are legal savvy, you should contact a defense lawyer to get your case moving along so you can get a better result. Now if you think there is not enough evidence to prove you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt and you want a trial, you will simply have to wait until this virus passes for your trial. Also if you were charged with an extremely violent crime, Covid-19 is not going to have any huge impact on your case other than your case may be delayed. This article is intended to help the people out there who are charged with non-violent crimes or minor violent crimes. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact the Feld Law Firm, we would be happy to schedule you a free consultation so that we can answer any questions you may have.